Wednesday, January 13, 2010

College Tips for Lucy and her Brethren in Laziness

My teenage sister is visiting right now. She used to live with us and we've really missed her. I really mean that. I missed HER, but not the litany of crap that goes along with being the pseudo-parent of a teenager. [Need some back story? Try Teen Rules with Hindsight and Black Panther Moments.] She has already taken possession of my hair dryer and iPod. [Editor's Note: Crap. That's ballsy. Even for Lucy. It's one thing to bogart her hair dryer. But, Lydia's iPod is her Precious. Like, she really does turn into Gollum with that thing. All kneel-y on the ground and petting it and stuff. It's like it's her version of my shoes. - Kate]

I made crispy spring rolls today as a special treat for the family and she ate eleven. In spite of my merciless taunting she continues to wears jeans that could be better described as "tights" (on her size 3 keister). But I must say, having her back in the BWT, riding shotgun and cracking inappropriate jokes has been bliss. You see, I'm now moving into a new phase of our relationship, back to being just her sister. And this move is coming at a very good time.

Because we just got her grades.

Lucy has just finished the first semester of her freshman year. Sigh... Let us all take a moment and reflect upon the excessive drinking and monumentally bad judgment that generally accompany this time in one's life. I was no different. I went to a big state school where the weekend started on Wednesday. So I get it. [Editor's Note: My college had a vineyard. It was terrible wine, but it was a CLASS. Drinking for credit. Awesome. -Kate]

Here's another thing we have in common: on any given Friday night in college, my blood alcohol level was higher than her current grade point average. It's that bad. Her highest grade was "D". Her roommate did even worse. She got three "F's" and an "L". I have no bloody idea what an "L" is. How bad do you have to be if they make up a new grade for your academic sucktitude?

But hey, it could turn around. I finished strong. I went to grad school. Then I went to grad school again. So in spite of the fact that I enjoyed the occasional beer funnel, I eventually got it together. And she will, too. I hope. Thank God this child is my sister and not my daughter. Because the anxiety and worry I am currently experiencing is so overwhelming that the idea of it being worse makes me feel faint. But rather than fixate on her possible future as a cashier at the gas station or *gasp!* worse, returning to her room in my basement, I have decided to take all I know from my very long career as a student and create a list of tips. At this point, what can it hurt?

Please note that conspicuously missing among these tips are suggestions like "go to class" or "do your homework" or "use your laptop for something other than facebook, hulu and illegally downloading mp3's" or "avoid illegal activity including underage drinking". Why? Because in spite of their lack of academic prowess, they are not stupid. They know all that stuff already. I intend to tell these kumquats something they don't know and do what I can to help them weasel their way out of academic probation.

Tip One: Do not be afraid to embrace the concept of GROVELING.
There is a long and venerable academic tradition of kissing professorial ass to improve your grades (or in your case, not to fail). And here's a life lesson, friend. Yes, it may be embarrassing to have to go talk to some egghead on a power trip and plead with him to spare you but here it comes... if you do not ASK you will not GET. Plus, any discomfort and awkwardness produced by begging your professor should be weighed against the sh*tstorm you will get from your parents if you fail out of school. Pay now or pay later.

Tip Two: Do not be afraid to EMBELLISH.
Do not make excuses. No one wants to hear your excuses. Your circumstances, maybe... Tell your story. And make it good. Your roommate is a cutter? No, he's not. He attempted suicide IN FRONT OF YOU. Your boyfriend cheat on you? No. He was emotionally abusive. You are just now getting the courage to speak out. Your dad is being a dick? No. He is unstable. This is really hard for you to talk about. Gulp. You need a minute. Missed the exam because you had a hangover and a cold? No. You had Swine flu. H1N1 and it would have been irresponsible to expose the rest of the class to such a serious and infectious disease. Get the idea? Just don't outright lie. Because I cannot abide lying and also, because if you get caught, you're done. Then you're stupid and a liar. Something like this...

Tip Three: No One Expects You to Do it All, Dumbass
Here's something you should already know. No one expects you do to every single thing for every single class. It's not possible. No reasonable person can read 1,500 pages per week, especially when most of it is so freaking boring that it's the equivalent of written Ambien. Unless, that is, you are someone who does calculus for fun. [In that case, why the hell are you reading this?] There are some people who like to use this as the "All or Nothing" excuse. Since they can't do it all, they don't do any of it. Another variation of this is: "I'm too far behind to catch up, so I'm just going to drink a six pack". It's one thing to be too lazy to read 1,500 pages. It's another thing to be too lazy to read chapter summaries, Wikipedia, Cliff's Notes, etc. *That* makes you a dumbass.

Tip Four: The Three Week Rule
If you can possibly manage it, Lazy, show up for class and do most of the work for the first three weeks that you are in a Professor's class. (This rule leads to another rule, which is to take lots of classes with the same professors). In that first three weeks, let them put a name to your bright and shiny face. Try not to text your way through every class. Get a sense of where the exam questions come from - the reading? the class notes? the lab? Then take the first test or write the first paper, get a half-way decent grade and start slacking armed with appropriate knowledge. Oh! This dude's exams are totally from the book. Therefore, I do not have to go to class all the time. Oh snap, the teaching assistant is the real boss here, therefore, I only have to go the labs and lectures where the TA will be present and the Professor can go suck... an egg. Do you see where I am going with this? Also, if you end up having to grovel - at least the professor will have one good grade from you and the memory of your bright and shiny face NOT TEXTING in his class.

Tip Five: Take Full Responsibility (or at least act it)
If you define "studying Spanish" as taking shots of Cuervo, please know - there will be a day of reckoning. [Editor's Note: I had my last margarita my sophomore year of college. I'm still reckoning with it. And it's been like 87 years since then. Or, three. I like to keep you guessing. - Kate] It will come from your family. Expect to hear something like this: "Congratulations, son. You have just wasted $18,769 of my money. I am now about to take it out of your ass." Expect it from your college: "Young lady, it has come to our attention that you are a moron. Now, you must leave these hallowed grounds. NOW. Feel free to come back when you are delivering pizzas to the dorms in your early thirties." The appropriate response to these statements is not to get mad, though it will make you mad, (because those stupid grown-ups - who have been through the EXACT SAME CRAP - just don't get it). If you act all adolescent and rage-y, they will just enjoy unloading on you more. Why make it fun for them? The appropriate response is to hang your head, let your eyes fill with tears and say: "I am so sorry. I take full responsibility." Disarm them with your repentant misery. Make them want to help you. Or at least make them feel terrible about kicking you out.

Please note that the short-cuts I have outlined here are common sense tools that can be applied in a wide variety of settings. What I am not encouraging is anything that will get you into more trouble - for example, cutting and pasting from the internet (also known as plagiarism). It just seems so easy now (I know I sound old). When I started college, people were still using typewriters and word processors. If you wanted to do research, you had to go to the library, now you don't even have to get out of bed. Failing out of school seems like it would be hard in 2010, like you would really have to try. And if you have to work that hard to get an "L" maybe you should just go to class. That's totally easier. What a concept.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. - 2009

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